SOUTH AMERICA ON A SHOESTRING: Backpacking in Argentina & Chile

I was on the bus once again, returning to Bariloche and to the trailhead of a great adventure. An adventure not only to amazing places, but to becoming a different person.At last I finished the episode with my passport card and was delighted to walk into the hotel at about 7pm to find my card ready for me to collect. Thank you DHL. I spent the day shopping around for climbing equipment; ultimately buying a good ice axe and a pair of crampons – second hand of course. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/79/Chopicalqui.jpgThe hotel reception gave me the address of a lady who owned a cheap hospedaje. So, as the sun began to set, I gathered my stuff and made my way up the hill…away from the touristy centre and toward the barrios of the city. Here I could camp for just $3, but I decided to go for the equally economical option of crashing on a couch outside on the balcony. Nelly – the owner of the guesthouse – welcomed me warmly and made sure that I was comfortable and happy. Throughout my travels across South America I was never short of being amazed at how friendly and accommodating people in hospitality were.I met a humble Japanese traveler, Taka, who was taking a Spanish course before I would continue a cross-continental motorbike expedition. I was pretty impressed with story. He had sold everything and decided to hit the big open spaces on a solo adventure of a lifetime. Three years in to his trip, he had covered Asia, Europe and Africa, and was half way through South America – having shipped his bike from Cape Town to Buenos Aires. We sat peacefully for a few hours, conversing excitedly over the fascination that is borne out of travel and the relationships between cultures and peoples’ psyches. I got an early start the next morning, being treated first by Nelly to a nice breakfast and some pleasant conversation. She told me that the train north into Chile, began not in Osorno, (as I had originally thought) but in Temuco. My first stop enroute to Temuco then, would be Valdivia – one of Chile’s most vibrant cities.I booked a ticket into Chile with Andes Mar and then headed back into town to pick up my long-awaited parcel from Chris. I also did a little extra shopping for climbing and camping gear. My progress was abated by a good hour after I was told that I needed authorization in order to collect my parcel. Great. My only hope was Thomas’s fax machine, but after learning that it didn’t work, I decided to ask the King’s hotel to please authorize the damn form with an ID number and a signature. Sorted.I was stoked to get a thermal undershirt and a polypropylene undershirt for cold weather. Chris also threw in a jar of marmite for the road. A bit random I thought, but hey, you can never get enough energy while on the road. I had run out of time to shop for a stove and a sleeping bag, so I rushed back to the hotel to get my backpack and, with an increasingly depleting window of time, waited for a shuttle to take me to the main bus station…some 3 kilometers away. I hopped onto the bus, meeting this chilled French guy, Joos, who was also headed for Valdivia. The trip this times across the border seemed more revealing, an array of mountainous landscapes featuring abrupt rock formations and patches of red forest…

Source: SOUTH AMERICA ON A SHOESTRING: Backpacking in Argentina & Chile

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Seeking the Mystic

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In this world we find ourselves

No one knowing for certain what we are doing here

 

The search for the big questions

The yearning for love

Looking for the mystic

Longing for bliss

 

Try to stay in both worlds if you can

Internal and external

Together they offer the fullness of life and the depth of experience

 

How do we do this many mirrored world?

So much we ‘have to do’ just to survive and play our part in ‘the way of things’

 

But here we cannot wander and lull into forgetfulness

Here is but a stage upon which we act out our being

Not a house we cannot leave

Or rules we must follow

 

Learning how to chart and travel life’s course alone

Unsure where the river leads

Sensing your place and time

Seeing the beauty of it all

Without fear

 

Curious

Anchored not to any one point

Deliberately determined each day

Every one a gift to be opened

Portraits of Heaven

Effulgent Boddhisatva in a monastic cave outside of Amchi | Ladakh
Like dust in the wind

So we are seen and unseen

 

From many places we have come

And many more where will become

 

A cloud

A star in the sky

The waves of the ocean beneath the moon

 

Portraits of heaven existing in time

Reminders of life

The eternal flame

 

Close to Home on the World’s Highest Road

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The road beckoned. This time, on a backpacking expedition in search of an inner Shangri-La during the summer of 2011, my mission was to hitch-hike and trek the highest navigable motorway on earth. A watershed of geographical and cultural diversity, straddling Himanchal Pradesh and Jammu Kashmir in northern India, the Manali-Leh route is 485 kilometres of daring mountain passes – open for only four months a year – cutting through pristine alpine and moonscape topography.

Nestled on the upper reaches of the Kullu and Parvati valleys, my journey began in Manali. Here, according to legend, Manu, the Hindu equivalent of Noah, set fire to his boat to recreate human life after floods destroyed the world. It is also the gateway to Ladakh, affectionately known as ‘Little Tibet’; homeland to one of the last undisturbed Tantric Buddhist cultures on the planet, established over a millennium ago by medieval pilgrims and kings.

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‘’You’re pretty brave to be doing this! Should’ve just taken a bus!’’ A jovial German engineer jested as he hauled us up the Rohtang La, at 3978m, the first major pass enroute to Leh. ‘’What’s life without a little adventure?!’’ I quipped, as the seasoned Mitsubishi rover sloshed through an icy glacial stream. Grateful for a head start I pitched camp alongside a giant boulder and was soon huddled beside a roaring fire, clasping my steaming thermos and gazing spellbound into the starry night sky.

Yearning to veer of the gringo trail, here I was…at the mercy of the moment, the wind at my back and in the presence of majestic Himalayan peaks, colossal custodians of a timeless realm.

Several unforgettable days followed. I was welcomed by wide-eyed, maroon and gold clad monks to stay in cliff-perched monasteries, gompas, where I attended morning puja ceremonies filled with bellowing recitals of Buddhist sutras by lamas in baritone.

The warmth of the Ladakhi people was something to behold, epitomizing lovingkindness and peace. Along the journey I caught rides in military trucks, tractors, fruit pickups and private jeeps, on passage north toward the snowy Silk Road frontier lands at the extreme edge of China and the Indian subcontinent.

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Having averaged an altitude of 4000 metres above sea level, at the climax of my epic I climbed to the highest elevation on this extraordinary path, Tanglang La pass at 5,328m, where I met fellow intrepid travellers, ecstatic to be in such a magical place.

In a tented dhaba we sipped yak butter tea and reminisced over stories about shoestring adventures in far-flung corners of the globe as the horizon melted from mauve to midnight blue.

At last in Leh, at the Shanti Stupa, I sat awestruck at murals and statues of Maitreya, the future Buddha, and Avalokitesvara, the thousand-armed god of compassion, and reflected on the stunning trip I had taken.

Thousands of miles from home, high on the Tibetan plateau, I realized that home is not where you live, or even where you are born, but is the quintessence of your true self.

Manali to Leh

Improving the Sports Facilities at Ukhanyo Primary School

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Masicorp has had a sports programme in place at Ukhanyo Primary School for many years. Physical education is a crucial part of every child’s learning experience and we recognise that involvement in sport develops skills such as discipline, commitment, punctuality and loyalty, as well the health benefits. Our assistance has part funded the salary of Nceba Jonas, the local community coach, provided training equipment and transport to inter-schools competitions on a regular basis. Each child now receives two physical education (PE) lessons each week.

fieldThere is one very serious obstacle preventing the further expansion of sporting activity at Ukhanyo – the physical space available for sports is small and of poor quality. We have therefore started an ambitious plan to improve the situation by refurbishing existing facilities and seeking funding to develop the unoccupied land within the school boundary that is currently used as a playing field. The land was…

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Netball Success in Masiphumelele

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Like many sportsmen in Masiphumelele, Nceba Jonas first passion is football. One evening many years ago as he left football training in Fish Hoek he stopped to watch a game of Netball, and so began an interest in the game that has led to a recent sporting success story for the ladies he now trains. As Ukhanyo’s schools sports coach, Nceba trains girls and boys in basic physical fitness and organized sports.

Nceba and trophyOne of the first sights a visitor gets to see at Ukhnayo is Nceba and the staff putting the various year groups through their paces in the school’s sports area. Throughout the day he takes the children through a series of exercises with help from the Good Sports Trust and Masicorp who have provided funding for various essential fitness equipment. Masicorp also provides funding for transport to tournaments for the teams that Nceba organizes. It is vital to…

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SPORTS & SERVICE

Sports Volunteering at Ukhanyo Primary School in Masiphumelele

Check it out guys! In action at a Physical Education (PE) session with a lively group of grade 2 Ukhanyo Primary School students last Friday. I’ve started volunteering with MasiCorp at Ukhanyo, assisting head coach Nceba Jonas with PE classes.

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Despite wonderful progress over the years, sports development at Ukhanyo remains a significant challenge, particularly in terms of spaces and staffing. Coach Nceba has been running PE classes for the entire student body (1 700) by himself, with little outside help. Most of the teachers are not trained to be coaches and lack knowledge and experience in sports. There is such incredible potential among the students, especially in netball, soccer and athletics, with the girls netball teams being hugely successful in the southern peninsula area. They’ve also won awards for their performances.

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MasiCorp is continuing its excellent relationship with Ukhanyo and operating projects to upgrade sporting facilities and coaching resources (staffing and equipment) at the only primary school in Masiphumelele. Its community sport initiatives offer children the chance to stay fit and strong, play sports, have fun, learn discipline and teamwork and feel more confident and determined as human beings.

Check out this link for more about MasiCorp’s awesome sports development projects!

https://masicorp.wordpress.com/category/education/community-sport/

My goal is to contribute through volunteering and assisting with fundraising for MasiCorp’s sports projects with a climb to Mt. Mafadi (the highest peak in South Africa) in October this year and weekly social events, including beach cricket, hiking, talks, live music and documentary screenings in Muizenberg and the surrounding suburbs.

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Please support my efforts by donating (details in my blog’s menu) and coming along to my fundraising events! Thanks so much everyone!!

 

 

Stepping into Another World

Effulgent Boddhisatva in a monastic cave outside of Amchi | Ladakh

STEPPING INTO ANOTHER WORLD

Stepping into another world
A Buddhist monastery
Perched in between misty mountains

Hundreds of monks debating
Deliberating in maroon and gold
On teachings of old

A majestic stupa
Rainbow mandalas envelop a powerful Buddha
He gazes over acolytes murmuring ancient sutras

Stepping into another world
Surreal
Yet intimately real all at once

A window into a vision of life rooted in the supernatural
And connection with the natural
All at once

The finer points of the philosophy are contemplated
Perhaps overstated
Past, present and future
Are never fully known
Nor do they need to be

An unwavering faith in the unknown abides
Awaiting the seeker at all times

Stepping into another world
Dusk sets in casting shadows across marble courtyards
Where the monks deliver their final arguments
Clapping their hands sideways in dramatic contention

The Dharma wheel above the temple is silhouetted
In front of a dreamy pink and grey twilight

Within each of us there is a fight
Enter the arena and try with all your might

Easy does it
There is no time limit
Whatever it is
You will find it

CATHEDRAL OF HEAVEN | Prayer flags wrap around a pole in a dramatic Himalayan backdrop | Ladakh